It was the highest honor to defend the Empire against the dreaded Chingers, an enemy race of seven-foot-tall lizards. But Bill, a Technical Fertilizer Operator from a planet of farmers, wasn't interested in honor-he was only interested in two things: his chosen career, and the shapely curves of Inga-Maria Calyphigia. Then a recruiting robot shanghaied him with knockout drops, and he came to in deep space, aboard the Empire warship Christine Keeler. And from there, things got even worse.
I love this book. He walks up to Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers and slaps a cream pie in its face. Then he kicks it in the balls and stands back to admire the effect, before setting to work on Isaac Asimov's Foundation. They both had it coming :)
It was a time when men were men and alien Chingers had better watch out.
If Robert Heinlein and Issac Asimov collaborated on a humorous Space Opera/Trooper novel - this is what they may have written.
Meet Bill, graduate of the Technical Fertilizer college on Phigerinadon II where no more than two interesting events happen every four years until he signs on with the Troopers.
Why are we fighting? "The Chingers are the only non-human race that has been discovered in the galaxy that has gone beyond the aboriginal level, so naturally we have to wipe them out."
On the space ship""Christine Keeler" Bill replaces giant fuses. (Remember those sci-fy shows where the control panels would burst into showers of sparks? Well folks, when the "Christine Keeler" is in battle there are sparks everywhere.)
Beware of the recruiting sergeant Learn to obey Petty Chief Officer Deathwish Drang Watch Eager Beager insanely polish everyone's' boots Work for Fuse Tender First Class Spleen Obey all officers no matter how inbred they seem
I simply had to revisit this series after recently come down from my Stainless Steel Rat binge.
For one, the humor is a bit more biting in this one. Satire? Absolutely. A bit catch-22 while dunking on Starship Troopers and having a jab at Trantor's city planning. (Foundation, ya'll!)
But best of all, this mid-sixties book lampoons all the rah, rah military, revolutionary leaders, bureaucracy, and plain-ole-stupidity. It's fast, has a light touch, and speeds through all those baddies like a bullet through paper.
Just be careful of winding up with two right hands. :)
I once met a woman in a bookstore who was in the process of buying Harry Harrison's 1965 classic "Bill, the Galactic Hero." She told me that she'd read it many times already, and that it was the funniest book ever. Well, I've never forgotten that conversation, and had long been meaning to ascertain whether or not this woman was right. It took me almost 20 years to get around to this book, but having just finished "Bill, the Galactic Hero," I must say that, well, it IS very amusing indeed.
In it, we meet Bill (no last name is ever provided), a simple farm lad on Phigerinadon II, who is shanghaied into the galactic emperor's army to fight in the war against the lizardlike Chingers. And what a grueling odyssey Bill goes through before all is said and done! He experiences a boot camp from hell, serves aboard the starship Christine Keeler and is almost killed, gets lost on the planetwide city of Helior, becomes a sanitation man, a revolutionary, a spy, fights on a swamp planet that's almost as nasty as Harrison's original Deathworld, and on and on.
Harrison keeps this short novel moving along furiously, and the level of invention is very high throughout. It is most impressive how just about every page features some amusing incident, laff-out-loud line (and I am not an easy person to make laugh out loud) or imaginative detail. The story is a very violent one, a scathing commentary on the madness that is war and the crazy institution that is the military, and part of the story's humor comes from the joking, nonchalant manner in which horrible proceedings are described. But there is much that is just inherently flat-out funny: The characters drink Heroin Cola and eat chlora-fillies (part chlorophyll, part horse wieners). There's a rock band called The Coleoptera (beetles). The combatants use flintlock ray guns. There is a Robot Underground Resistance (RUR!), and some characters are named Schmutzig von Dreck (I guess it helps if you know some Yiddish), Gill O'Teen and Eager Beager. Still, as I said, this is a brutal tale, and the reader would be well advised not to grow too attached to any character, as at least half the cast gets offed before the book is through. And that brutalization extends to our main man Bill, who becomes less naive and more animallike as the novel proceeds.
This is a tale told with almost Alfred Bester-like panache and marvelous satiric detail, but at times the detail is a bit sketchy; I'm referring to details of geography here, and background history and character. With so many incidents to cram into the book's short length, many of them seem a bit rushed, and characters come and go without leaving much of an impression. I suppose what I'm saying is that Harrison might have expanded his book a bit; that it's almost too concise and to the point. Still, the story certainly does entertain. But getting back to that woman in the bookstore...IS this the funniest book that I've ever read? Well, I must admit that no book has ever made me laff more than John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces" (1980), and that Kurt Vonnegut's "The Sirens of Titan" (1959) may be a worthier sci-fi comedy than this one, but "Bill..." certainly does hold its own in that august company. After all, any book that provides big laffs and a positive message isn't to be sneezed at...
There was a death in my family this week, so reading a funny sci-fi book was both a good and bad idea.
Good because the humor cheered me up; bad because much of the humor was lost on me.
But even with my bias, Bill the Galactic Hero is a fine piece of political sci-fi. Harry Harrison's book is not so much an anti-war manifesto as it is an anti-ridiculousness manifesto.
Harrison just happens to recognize that war, bureaucracy, government, and all those other things that are so much a part of homo sapien social development are completely ridiculous. So he gives us Bill the Galactic Hero, a farm boy who becomes a raw recruit becomes a fusetender becomes a war hero becomes an a.w.o.l. military criminal becomes a garbage man becomes a revolutionary/spy becomes a captured military criminal becomes a recruiter, moving through multiple levels of bureaucracy and mindless war like an ethyl alcohol fueled Forrest Gump.
Bill the Galactic Hero is an excellent example of sixties dissent and sci-fi satire, and if I'd read it at another time it might have become a favourite. As it stands, though, I can only applaud Harrison's creativity and message -- at two right arms' lengths
(How's this for a simile: "The troopers chippered like birds and were as nervous as virgins at a defloration ceremony."? Zoinks!)
Harry Harrison wrote "Bill, the Galactic Hero" in 1965. America's failure in the Korean War was starting to be replayed again in the early years of the Vietnam Conflict (Vietnam was a "conflict" before it was a "war", although some historians say it was only a "police action"). The Hippy movement was on the rise. The Sixties were a weird time of Green Berets, Flower Power, Black Panthers, and Free Love. You were either a hippy or a commie-hater. You either enlisted or you got drafted. Either way, you were fucked.
In the world of science fiction, numerous authors tried to capture the weirdness of the Sixties and, specifically, the War. Some succeeded, some failed. Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War" was an unforgettable novel that tried to capture the absurdity of war while still being respectful of the military. (Haldeman was drafted and served as an engineer in Vietnam. He was wounded in battle and received a Purple Heart.)
Harrison's "Bill, the Galactic Hero" was anything but respectful. It was, in every way, a castigation of war and the military. It's also damned hilarious.
"BTGH" is, essentially, "Catch-22" in outer space. It's a short novel, and Bill isn't a very bright or memorable character---he's kind of a cipher-like Everyman to which any and every awful thing that can happen, does.
The summary: Bill is a farmer on a farm planet who gets "drafted" (more like kidnapped) by the Space Troopers to fight in the Space Emperor's battle with the Chingers, an alien race of seven-foot tall reptiles with four arms who want to eat humans. Bill suffers through torturous basic training, almost getting killed on a starship, being erroneously charged with going AWOL while on shore leave, and being the only surviving member of his platoon on a war-ravaged jungle planet. He also learns that the Chingers are actually seven-INCH tall, peace-loving creatures who don't understand why Mankind wants to wipe them out of the universe, that the war is only going on in order to make profit for the military industrial complex, and that almost everything being reported on the galactic news channels are completely wrong and pro-Emperor propaganda.
The kicker: Bill doesn't care. He's a good soldier, which means he does what he's told, even when what he's told goes against everything his mother taught him and even when he knows he's being lied to.
This book will alternately make one laugh out loud and cringe in disgust with its disturbingly dead-on satire and portrayal of the insanity of war. There is something brilliant within these few pages of Harrison's somehow forgotten and overlooked novel.
Bill je "rođen glup, ali brzo uči", ima dvije desne ruke i radnja se za njega lijepi kao med za kruh. Bilo mi je zgodno čitati sarkazam, homor, vojnu nelogičnost i glupost, ali ako ste čitali npr. Kvaku 22, nema se tu novoga što za reći. Čak se i referira u dijelovima na Kvaku jer Harrison također pravi logičku petlju iz koje vojnik ne može izaći. Prijevod je blaga katastrofa, oluja i uragan s ledom velikim kao lubenice. Također, netko to voli ali ja ne volim, smeta mi obraćenje Harrisona čitatelju. Ok, znam da je knjiga, ali me to izbaci iz takta i doslovno popizdim kada mi netko počne pisati: A sada dragi čitaoče, neću te zamarati s tim i tim... Kužim ja to rušenje četvrtog zida, ali to mi ne smeta samo kod Deadpoola:) Knjižica mi je zaista bila samo OK, ni više ni manje od toga i daleko je to od top tri ratna SF-a kako su je neki svrstavali. Toliko mi je bila OK, da sigurno neću uzeti čitati ostale nastavke jer me uopće, ali uopće ne zanimaju.
Estas son las aventuras de Bill, un campesino que es reclutado a la fuerza por el ejército imperial, tras esto tenemos la típica comedia disfrazada de libro de ciencia ficción militar, desgraciadamente el humor de Harry Harrison no termina de ser para mí, me saca alguna sonrisa pero poco más.
Smiješna, zabavna i nasilna satira koja bezobrazno gađa u prepone i bespoštedno kritizira društvo, vojsku i birokraciju. Nivo apsurda je doveden do savršenstva, miješajući uvrnutu logiku, crni humor i najljigavije likove ikad stavljene na papir. Svakih par rečenica Harrison plasira novu urnebesnu situaciju, a blesavi manijakalni svijet u kojem glavni junak Bill nastoji preživjeti je istovremeno zastrašujuć i smiješan. Ovo izdanje (Narodna Knjiga, 1987) je puno grešaka i poluprožvakanih rečenica, ali na sreću nije mi moglo ubiti doživljaj ovog zabavnog djela.
Η πρώτη μου επαφή με αυτόν τον κλασικό και πολύ γνωστό συγγραφέα επιστημονικής φαντασίας, που δυστυχώς στην Ελλάδα δεν του δόθηκε και τόση προσοχή όσο έπρεπε, τόσα καλά και κλασικά βιβλία έχει γράψει, μόνο δυο έχουν μεταφραστεί, το ένα ακριβούτσικο και το άλλο σπάνιο πλέον.
Τέλος πάντων. Το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο είναι από τα πιο αστεία και σατιρικά πολεμικά βιβλία που έχω διαβάσει, σατιρίζει τον πόλεμο, την στρατιωτική και μη γραφειοκρατία, τις κυβερνήσεις και άλλα πολλά. Δεν είναι ας πούμε μια ιστορία που θα την πάρει κανείς στα πολύ σοβαρά, αλλά είναι ένα πολύ ευχάριστο και καλογραμμένο ανάγνωσμα.
Ο πρωταγωνιστής, ένα αγροτόπαιδο από κάποιον πλανήτη, κατατάσσεται όχι και τόσο οικειοθελώς (χε, χε!) στο στρατό, για να πολεμήσει ενάντια σε μια φυλή σαυροειδών (!), και μετά περνάει ένα κάρο περιπέτειες, ζει ένα κάρο τρελά σκηνικά, μπλέκει σε ένα κάρο τρελές ιστορίες, μέσω των οποίων γίνεται η όλη σάτιρα που προανέφερα. Σε κάποιο σχόλιο στο goodreads είδα ότι πιθανόν να σατιρίζει λίγο το Starship Troopers του Heinlein. Πιθανό αυτό, δεν το έχω έχω διαβάσει ακόμα, αλλά σίγουρα σατιρίζει όλη αυτή την στρατιωτική/πολεμική παράνοια. Η γραφή πολύ καλή, οι χαρακτήρες αστείοι και λίγο - πολύ καρικατούρες, και η ελληνική μετάφραση πολύ αξιόλογη.
Το προτείνω το βιβλίο για ένα ανάλαφρο/σατιρικό πολεμικό space opera μυθιστόρημα επιστημονικής φαντασίας, με μπόλικο γέλιο και πολλές περιπέτειες.
Harry Harrison was brilliant. His "Eden trilogy" is just magnificent.
His books always aboard serious subjects but with his personal touch: sometimes with satire (Stainless Steel Rat), absurdity (Make Room, Make Room) and, in "Bill, the Galactic hero", with sarcastic acid humour, bordering the ludicrous.
This book has only one intention: to ridicule the Army systems and the stupidity of war. Particularly the concept in military schools that the "grunt" is best used as fodder for the cannons. "Walking slowly toward the enemy in a straight line is an excellent strategy."
Here H.H. denounces with contemptible wit and buffoonery the pathetic excuses superior ranks use to disguise the stupidity and incompetence of those who can easily decide who will live or die because they will never put their asses on the line. the bravery of those there are always out of range.
Harry Harrison's bibliographies mention that a Vietnam veteran described this book: "the only book that's true about the military". And Terry Pratchett said: "the funniest Sci-Fi novel was ever written was Bill, The Galatic Hero."
It's an easy and small book to read (around 160 pages) but not so easy to "digest" unless to cite our contemporary heroine, Hermione Granger, "you have the emotional range of a teaspoon"
Първо едно уточнение: това не е книгата, издадена навремето на български от "Лира принт" с подзаглавие "Последното налудничаво приключение" (онази е последната от поредицата, а тази - първата). Имах надежди тази като първоизточник да е чувствително по-добра и в началото те донякъде се оправдаха. Макар и не твърде оригинална, книгата беше прилично забавна и дори имаше някое-друго яко попадение. За съжаление почти цялата втора половина е тежък случай на "не знам вече какво да пиша, ама трябва да гоня обем за роман". Оценка на първата половина: 3*, на втората - 1*. Едва ли ще посегна към останалите от поредицата.
As a satire of militarism and bureaucracy, it had lots of ROLFing moments. The problem is, it all plays out in a very “in your face” way, leaving almost everyone as a throwaway caricature. It’s not subtle at what it’s doing, so you can’t see it as a story about people lacking self-awareness. They are more like cartoons written for a joke.
The structure of the plot is also problematic as it goes on. The early part at the army is very fun and well-planned out, as everything seems to progress in an organic way. The characters are easier to like, as they are forced to do a job they don’t like and most likely die for rulers who don’t care about them. After the battle is over, continuity loses consistency, as the events on the capital planet don’t connect well with each other. You can shuffle them around with little difference. Latter characters also don’t give you as much reason to care about, and they are usually removed from the plot too fast for you to get to like them.
Overall, a good read with a humorous look on propaganda and corruption, but lacks the subtlety of the more famous satires ala Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Mnogo sam se smejao citajuci ovu knjigu, tezak sarkazam i cinizam provejava na mnogo mesta
Kako mi je ruka, Dok? — zabrinu se iznenada Bil. Ispečena kao odrezak. Morao sam da je odsečem. Onda šta je ovo? — kriknu Bil užasnuto. Druga ruka, koju sam zašio. Mnogo ih je bilo, preostalih posle borbe. Brod je imao preko 42 procenta gubitaka, i stvarno sam imao da sečem, i da tranširam, i da zašivam, kad ti kažem. Poslednji zavoj spade i trupaši uzdahnuše od uživanja. Hej, pa to je moćno fina ruka! Izvedi nešto njome. I prokleto zgodan šav tamo pri ramenu, vidi kako su uredni bodovi! I mišićava isto, i dugačka, ne kao ona bedna kratka što mu je sa druge strane. Duža i tamnija, silna boja kože! To je Tembova ruka! — kriknu Bil. — Sklonite je! — On zabatrga preko kreveta ali i ruka je išla za njim. Ponovo ga namestiše na jastuke. Baš si ti jedan srećan steronja, Bile, što imaš tako dobru ruku. I to još ruku svog drugara.
Zavalio se na jastuke i rukovao se sa samim sobom sve dok nije zaspao.
Reading some of the Grandmasters of Science Fiction. Probably not his best. And not so awful I couldn’t finish it. But certainly not the “laugh a page” experience it was made out to be. Just okay. I’ll have to try something in the Stainless Steel Rat series before casting further judgement.
Vzadu na prebale tejto knihy je napísané:" Zkrátka nejvtipnější SF kniha, jaká kdy byla napsána. Terry Pratchett". Čo už ale zabudli napísať je, že Terry to nehovoril o Billovi, ale pravdepodobne niekde v krčme pri pive popisoval nejakú zo svojich kníh. Alebo mu veľa zaplatili. Alebo to bolo z čias jeho feťáckych úletov (aj keď si neviem predstaviť drogu, ktorá by zvýšila úroveň humoru tejto knihy). Rakovina konečníku je vtipnejšia než Harry Harrison. Začala svižne, ale po asi 7 stranách to zťazklo. Potom putovala na WC, že reku "one page at a time", ale keďže začala narúšať aj Feng Šuhaj môjho vylučovania tak som to vzdal. 150 strán utrpenia a trápnosti, situácií na seba nalepených nezmyselne a nelogicky, akoby autor postupoval podľa nejakej príručky ako byť vtipný. Za každú cenu. S nulovým výsledkom. Rád by som aspoň naznačil dejovú líniu, ale to sa nedá. Bill je skrátka kokot. Má to jednu výhodu. Ak sa môže táto kniha niekomu páčiť, tak aj moje literárne pokusy majú budúcnosť.
It's a product of it's time- a late 60's reaction to hard and military sci-fi with a bunch of English Navy coming of age tropes used for flavor, liberally spiced with humor and overspiced with obvious puns and bald references in place of subtle jibes. Not a masterpiece, but worth reading by students of the genre.
143 pages is a quick read, and what I actually have is the Berkeley Medallion edition from 1966, which originally cost fifty cents but we paid forty-nine cents for.
Anyway, this is a parody of military SF, in which the "hero" is literally drugged into signing up for the army and the war is going on because humans are naturally warlike. The ship that Bill winds up on is called Christine Keeler, and I looked her up: she was a model and showgirl, and in 1963, her affair with a British government minister severely embarrassed the government. Bill loses his left arm in battle, and it's replaced with someone else's right arm (as a resul,t he could shake hands with himself). ... And further weird stuff, such as the capital planet, Helior, that's covered with gold-tinted aluminum so it'll look like gold, and which is such a three-dimensional maze that when Bill loses his (paper) floor plan, it takes him eight days to get back to his billet - and then there are more absurd complications.
I particularly enjoyed the 1960s tech in which the spaceship's electrical systems employ 90-pound fuses. And then there's the bit on Helior where there are so many spies in the "revolutionary movement" that in fact they're all spies (including Bill), though I kind of saw that coming.
Anyway, it was fun in a very anti-war, anti-totalitarian, anti-bureaucracy, anti-stupidity way. Kind of a weird cross between Starship Troopers and Catch-22. But it also ends on a full-circle, depressing note that all by itself elevates it above mere ridiculous humor and, I think, into the realm of satire.
Pretty entertaining and a poignant anti-draft (anti-government compulsion) novel. While not as outright hilarious or as witty as Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Bill, the Galactic Hero draws its humor and wit mainly from a "poor boy get's stuck in the army" story that never felt heavy-handed or burdensome or downright melodramatic like many more 'famous' anti-war novels. I'm not sure if I would even put this in the same category as those (and not just because it is a comedy/scifi): while it definitely sounds off against the stupidity of war in general and militant patriotism, I get the feeling the real evil in this book is the evolved (or devolved) lack of human empathy, which seems so natural in a future where everything is automatic, instantly and artificially made and completely recyclable/expendable. For that reason alone, I think this puts it further ahead of many other so called anti-war novels to show the best of what science fiction can be, even as it plays with the most cliched and recognizable scifi tropes.
This book was just a hoot from start to finish. What is most interesting however is both the satirical and dystopian aspect of the book. Harrison takes a bite out of everyone in the book, the hawks and the doves, the officers and the enlisted men, the government bureaucrats and the dumb joes just doing their duty, and probably some of the pulp sci fi he saw in his day.
The dystopian aspect I found is that once Bill learns the "ropes" of one of his predicaments, whether it be a solider recruit, Fuse Tender military specialty, a garbage "G-Man", or revolutionary turned double-spy, he is never allowed to become comfortable. His life is a constant struggle by the skin of his teeth hopping to one misery to the next that is disguised as a Potemkin village.
Add to that some military humor (if you're a vet you'll know) and some looney tunes shenanigans and you have a short and surprisingly pretty deep read if you're willing to look under the surface.
Dare I say this is the best book I`ve read? Well... no, but it comes really close. First, it says quite a lot in a very short space. And that has to mean something.
When I`ve first read this book, which came more than two and a half decades ago, I saw it as a satirical, a damn humorous vision of hierarchy, politics, and bloody world as it is. Boy, did I laugh!
I took it with me when I was drafted, right after NATO wiped out my country. Soon after it went viral through my division I`ve met a security officer who saw the book as an item of subordination. Luckily it was thin enough for him to start reading it right away. Did I say that not a week after, most of the officers had a copy, or a copy of a copy of a copy... And I`ve never seen my book again.
Now, I still read it sometimes. I still laugh a lot. And just sometimes, shed a tear.
I read this when I was too young to get the humor of the hapless dung farmer Bill, who is drafted, mutilated, and turned into a public "hero" in an interstellar war with lizard aliens.
I suppose it is dark, sardonic satire of the military and government and propaganda. But at the time I just thought it was nastier and nastier, sort of like "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe" with all of the likeable characters and charm removed.
Perhaps I shall read this again in memory of Harrison, who died yesterday.
I'm not going to waste your time here, this is billed as a humourous science fiction book and I don't recall laughing out loud once. Could be my sense of humour, it's a little suspect, but without the laughs this is only an OK book.